Councils divided as HS2 Bill is given Royal Assent

HS2 will be the “catalyst” in driving economic growth in the West Midlands as the eagerly anticipated high-speed rail link was given Royal Assent in Parliament today. However, Camden Council, which represents one of the most affected areas along the entire route and home to HS2’s proposed London terminus of Euston Station, has continued to express caution.

The HS2 Hybrid Bill today will become an Act of Parliament, meaning that West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been given the go ahead to work on the project which will construct terminals in Birmingham and Solihull for the network.

The new Birmingham Curzon station is expected to bring in £1bn worth of regeneration opportunity for the area, delivering 104,000 jobs and 2,000 apprenticeships as well as improved accessibility for the region.

The West Midlands economy is already being given a boost from HS2, through 1,300 jobs in the HS2 Ltd construction office in Birmingham, as well as by creating new education opportunities in the £22m National College for High Speed rail that will train staff for the construction of HS2 from September.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA, spoke about his excitement for HS2: “This is the news that the West Midlands has been waiting for. HS2 is going to happen and we’re ready to capitalise fully on the opportunities it offers to transform places, create jobs and attract investment.

“Royal Assent is important because it makes HS2 an absolute reality and means the West Midlands can now fully deliver its HS2 ambitions.

He added: “Those ambitions have a clear focus on jobs, apprenticeships, major investment at the two station sites in Solihull and Birmingham and millions of pounds of contract opportunities for West Midlands SMEs.”  

Cllr Sleigh also emphasised the benefit of HS2 and its surrounding transport infrastructure to making Birmingham one of the best connected areas of the UK, and the investment opportunities this was sure to bring into the authority.

“All of this means the West Midlands has never been better positioned to make such an outstanding contribution to UK plc right now, and for years to come too,” he said.

“My message to the people of the West Midlands and beyond who are wondering what HS2 will give them, is that this is so much more than a fast train. The arrival of HS2 will allow us to create a legacy and will help secure your future, your children’s future and probably your grandchildren’s future too.” 

Holding HS2 Ltd to account

In London, however, the leader of Camden Council, Cllr Sarah Hayward, said that together with residents, community groups and businesses, “we’ve challenged the HS2 Bill every step of the way to limit the worst effects of what will be nearly two decades of construction disruption for Camden”.

“We are proud to have successfully secured significant concessions through the difficult parliamentary process, including replacement homes for council tenants and leaseholders, noise insulation for significantly affected homes, limits on construction vehicle emissions and a £3.5m Camden-wide community fund,” she said.

“After years of the council fighting for fairer compensation for Camden residents, the government has finally agreed to offer compensation that is ‘fair, reasonable and proportionate’ to those living in urban areas – we now need to see the details of this new scheme as soon as possible.”

She added that the local authority would prefer the scheme wasn’t going ahead, “but our priority now is to hold HS2 Ltd to account on its commitments and make sure it does everything possible to further reduce impacts on Camden”.

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Danny Doogan   23/02/2017 at 13:05

This is something that is being enforced upon us. The overwhelming majority of those who will be affected by HS2 didn’t want it to happen, and have campaigned strongly against it from the start for good reason – it’s an unprecedented upheaval based on unsound economic reasoning. Its construction will be a prolonged inconvenience that will impose environmental, economic and social impacts on those who live on/near to the construction route. HS2 Ltd should be made accountable for it's commitments along the entire route, and this should include enforceable service level agreements with each of the affected communities, for which HS2 should bear the cost. Furthermore, the Gov’t should create covenants that will ensure, for future generations, the proper establishment, upkeep and maintenance of the landscaping along the route.

Timetc   23/02/2017 at 17:53

By the time this project is complete the existing motorways will be running at 200% more traffic than today with 'trains' of automated lorries coaches and cars a few inches apart, while occupants carry on their business and the IT does the driving. The HS2 will be obsolete before its completed remember the Pony Express only lasted 18 months

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